Cat with heart murmur can't walk, eat, and has film over eyes

by Justin
(Alton, IL)

Before he was sick

Before he was sick

I have a Persian/Himalayan cat, about 7 years old. We let a stray cat in out of the cold and she had an eye infection we weren't aware of and ended up getting both of our 2 house cats sick. The younger cat recovered okay, but our older cat already has a heart murmur and is on the verge of death.

First it was green pus coming out the cat's eyes and the eyeballs were covered with red liquid, turning his eyes from blue to red. We got cat eye drops for it and seemed to clear it up but daily administration is still needed because it comes back when treatment is stopped. Then, our cat had sudden weight loss due to loss of appetite. He is bone thin now. Our cat has also slowly lost the ability to walk. It started out looking like he was off balance, then his limbs would look stiff, and now he can barely move them at all.

My cat hasn't urinated or had a bowel movement in about a week despite our efforts to keep him hydrated with water and fed with food. He can't eat dry food at all and barely eats tuna. He just licks the liquid and a small pinch of the actual tuna. We even got him a supplement meant for cats off their food that he doesn't like very much as it is thick and smells bad and I'm sure tastes even worse. He can't do anything on his own anymore except eat when food is placed directly under his mouth on a flat surface.

Now his eyes are developing what I can only describe as a thin see-through layer of rough plastic but not over the entire eyeball. I also forgot to mention we treated him with the strongest antibiotic the veterinarian had and that only helped marginally. The vet said this cat should have been dead a week ago but must be holding on for us.

My cat doesn't meow at all like he's in pain, so we don't want to put him down. I have no idea what’s wrong with him and neither do the vets. If anyone knows what his problem might be please contact me!

Dear Justin,

Your letter saddens me, and I am so very sorry to hear about your cat’s poor health. While I would like to help, I do not have nearly enough detail or information about your cat’s illness symptoms and can only provide some information about possibilities.

Unfortunately, many people learn the hard way that, as big as your heart may be, stray cats need to be quarantined and tested for FeLV/FIV and receive a thorough exam by a veterinarian before being exposed to the other kitties in your household. While the stray cat may or may not have been the cause of your current cat’s health condition, this is a wise practice to keep in mind for the future.

Has your sick cat been tested for FeLV/FIV? Did your veterinarian run complete bloodwork on your kitty? Between the symptoms with your cat’s eyes, the immobility, and significant weight loss, there are many possible causes for your cat’s illness symptoms, and to diagnose many of them, complete bloodwork, and possibly many other tests, would be needed.

The plastic film you are describing on your cat’s eyes could be anything from scar tissue, ulcerations on the eyes, to even a displaced lens.

When you indicate that your cat cannot move, it is very unclear without a physical exam whether this is due to weakness or his cat heart condition. If your cat’s limbs are cold, stiff, and completely unusable, the loss of mobility could be due to blood clots. Your veterinarian should be able to tell if this is the cause based on the temperature of your cat’s limbs and the pads of his feet as well as by checking for pulses in his lets. Otherwise, your cat’s lack of mobility could be due to low potassium or kidney problems, and could also be weakness secondary to severe dehydration and malnourishment.

What is also unclear is why your kitty stopped eating. Did he have discharge from his nose as well? Is your kitty congested? Congestion can cause lack of appetite in cats, because they eat largely in response to smell. An upper respiratory infection could be contributing to the problem, and an oral antibiotic would be recommended in addition to the feline medication you are giving for your cat’s eyes.

A cat that hasn't urinated in a week would likely be dead by now. Lack of urination could indicate a urinary obstruction, but in this case I would say it is more likely that your cat is either so severely dehydrated or that his kidney's have completely shut down. Are you sure that your cat has not urinated, even a little, perhaps under himself while lying down?

All in all, you describe a very, very sick cat. If your veterinarian cannot provide a diagnosis, you should seek another opinion from another vet as soon as possible. Your cat may still be treatable, but he needs immediate veterinary attention and would likely need to be hospitalized on IV fluids to sustain him while a diagnosis and treatment can be determined.

And ultimately, when it comes to trying to decide on your cat’s quality of life, please keep in mind that cats most often do not cry or otherwise show that they are in pain. As hard as it may be, your precious kitty’s quality of life sounds as though it is quite poor, and if he cannot be treated or if you do not see improvement soon, it might be time to consider putting him to sleep. I know it is difficult, but if your cat does not improve with hospitalization and fluids, I would recommend euthanasia to end your kitty's suffering, if doing so does not go against your moral or religious beliefs.

With best wishes,
Dr. Neely

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